This update contains brief details of recent Government publications, legislation, cases and other developments relevant to those involved in local government work, which have been published in the previous two weeks. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

If you have been forwarded this update by a colleague and would like to receive it direct please email Claire Booth.

All links are correct at the date of publication. The following topics are covered in this update:

   Access to Information    Fire and Rescue Authorities
   Adult Social Services    Governance
   Best Value    Health and Social Care
   Children's Services    Highways
   Commons and Village Greens    Housing
   Community Rights    Police and Crime
   Consultation    Procurement
   Delivery of Services    Public Health
   Democratic Services    Publicity
   Devolution    Rating
   Economic Development    Regulatory Services
   Education    Social Enterprises
   Energy Efficiency    Standards
   Finance    Traffic and Transport

 

Access to Information

DCLG: Local government transparency code 2015: this updated Code of Recommended Practice sets out the minimum data that local authorities should be publishing, the frequency it should be published and how it should be published. There is also a frequently asked questions document that addresses technical questions which are related to the publication of specific data sets. (27 February 2015)

Local Government (Transparency Requirements) (England) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/480): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2015, require local authorities in England to publish the information specified in Part 2 of the Local Government Transparency Code 2015 in the manner and form and on the occasions specified in Part 2 of that Code. (5 March 2015)

Local Government (Transparency) (Descriptions of Information) (England) Order 2015 (SI 2015/471): this order, which comes into force on 4 March 2015, adds to the descriptions of information about which the Secretary of State may require authorities in England to publish information on occasions recurring more than once a year. (12 January 2015)

DfE: Information sharing letter: this letter to local authorities, police and health bodies gives guidance on sharing information in relation to child sexual abuse. The Annex provides a summary of existing legislation and guidance on information sharing. It is published as part of the Government's strategy on child sexual exploitation (see below). (3 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Emma Godding.

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Adult Social Services

Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill: this Bill has been introduced into the National Assembly and is at Stage 1. It provides a revised and streamlined legislative framework for the regulation and inspection of care and support in Wales, as set out in the Welsh Government's Sustainable Social Services: A Framework for Action (2011). The Bill will:

  • reform the regulatory regime for care and support services;
  • establish requirements for local authorities and Welsh Ministers to undertake assessments of the sector’s future stability;
  • reform the inspection regime for local authority social services functions;
  • reconstitute and rename the Care Council for Wales as Social Care Wales and broaden its remit; and
  • set out the regulation of the social care workforce.

(24 February 2015) 

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Best Value

DCLG: Revised Best Value statutory guidance consultation paper (for England): seeks views on revised best value statutory guidance on the Best Value Duty that sets out some reasonable expectations of the way authorities should work with voluntary and community groups and small businesses when facing difficult funding decisions. It gives a new, clear prominence to requirements on dealing with the voluntary and community sector and small businesses, helps build the confidence of these organisations in holding public agencies to account, and is explicit about the scope for Best Value authorities to consider social value in their functions, as required by the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. It also makes it clear that authorities should not give grants to organisations that promote extremism or division in society. The consultation closes on 20 March 2015. (27 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Children's Services

DfE: Family Drug and Alcohol Court to extend nationwide: the Family Drug and Alcohol Court works with parents, social workers and substance misuse professionals to combat addictions in families in order to keep them together or, where this isn’t possible, to make swift decisions to find children a permanent, loving, stable home with minimal disruption. It offers fast-access substance misuse services as well as help with housing issues, domestic violence and financial hardship. DfE has now announced £2.5m funding to launch family drug and alcohol courts in new areas of the country. (19 February 2015)

Children's Homes (England) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/541): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2015, introduce a new regulatory framework for children’s homes that is no longer focused on minimum standards and detailed processes but on aspirational quality standards that are underpinned by requirements that homes must achieve to meet each Quality Standard. The aim is to drive up the quality of care in children’s homes, ensuring professionals working with the children in their care tailor support to their individual needs and that the care provided is firmly centred on achieving high expectations and positive outcomes for each child. They revoke and replace SI 2001/3967. (6 March 2015)

Ofsted: Inspection of children's homes framework for inspection from 1 April 2015: sets out a new inspection framework to improve standards in children’s homes. It includes a judgement grade of ‘requires improvement’ that replaces the current judgement of ‘adequate’ where homes require improvement to reach the benchmark of ‘good’, and new evaluation criteria for the grades of ‘outstanding’, ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’, based upon ‘good’ as the benchmark. (27 February 2015)

Home Office: Tackling child sexual exploitation: this policy paper sets out how the Government is tackling child sexual exploitation and responding to the failures that were identified by Professor Alexis Jay and Louise Casey in their recent reviews into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. The report includes a comprehensive and targeted set of actions for all parts of the system including healthcare, social care, education, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. it includes:

  • proposals to extend the new ‘wilful neglect’ offence to children’s social care, education and elected members; 
  • a new whistleblowing national portal for child abuse related reports to help to bring child sexual exploitation to light and to spot patterns of failure across the country;
  • an additional £7m this year and in 2015/16 to organisations which support those who have experienced sexual abuse.

The LGA has published a Resource Pack for local authorities to help them implement effective responses to child sexual exploitation within their own organisation, with their local partners and their communities. It includes briefings, communications support, training materials and case studies.
DCLG has announced a new £250,000 fund to support women and give them the confidence to speak out against abuse and child sexual exploitation within their communities. The closing date for applications is 31 March 2015. (3 March 2015)

Re A (A Child) (Rev 1) [2015] EWFC 11 (Fam Ct): this case concerned the Council's application for a care order and a placement order in relation to a one year old boy, A. A was born while his mother was in prison for dishonesty and for sexual offences relating to a minor. The Council conducted pre-birth assessments and, one month after his birth, decided that care proceedings should be issued with a plan for adoption. Care proceedings were finally issued seven months later. A's father (F) put himself forward as carer but the Council decided that A should not be placed with his father because F lacked "honesty with professionals; he minimised matters of importance; he was immature and lacked insight of issues of importance; his relationships with family members and his former partner were acrimonious and characterised by violence."
The court held, ordering the return of A to his father, that this case was an object lesson in how not to embark upon and pursue a care case. The judge was very critical of the local authority's analysis, its handling of the case and its conduct of the litigation. There were lessons here to be learned, not just by this local authority and its staff but also by practitioners more generally. There was far too much misuse and abuse of s.20 of the Chldren Act 1989 and this could no longer be tolerated. Many of the Council's allegations had been abandoned or could not be substantiated. The Council was too willing to believe the worst of F, which led to it being unduly dismissive of what he was saying, and it failed to link the facts it relied upon with its assertions that A was at risk. F might not be the best of parents, he might be a less than suitable role model, but that was not enough to justify a care order let alone adoption. The courts must guard against the risk of social engineering, and that was what it would be doing if it was to remove A permanently from F's care. (17 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Clare Taylor.

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Commons and Village Greens

R (Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd) v East Sussex CC [2015] UKSC 7 (Sup Ct): the Supreme Court has overturned the CA's decision that a beach could be registered as a town or village green under s.15 of the Commons Act 2006. The CA had held that registration as a town or village green did not depend on actual or presumed grant or on actual or implied dedication but on use of a specified character over a specified period and so the capacity of the landowner to grant rights over the land or to make a dedication did not enter into the picture.
The Supreme Court held, allowing the port authority's appeal, that the effect of the byelaws was to amount to a licence or permission to members of the public to use the beach for leisure activities so their use was "by right" rather than "as of right". It was not necessary for the landowner to show that members of the public had had it drawn to their attention that their use of the land concerned was permitted in order for their use to be treated as being "by right". Assuming that there was no general common law right for the public to use the foreshore for bathing and associated recreational activities, the user was by permission in the light of the byelaws. In any event the 2006 Act could not operate by reason of incompatibility with the statutory basis on which the port authority's predecessors acquired the land, and the statutory purposes for which they held, and now the port authority held, that land. (25 February 2015).

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Community Rights

DCLG: £22 million funding to boost neighbourhood planning: announces additional funding to support communities looking to set up neighbourhood plans. Grants can be used to pay for events to engage the local community, print leaflets and to pay for specialist planning expertise. The support programme runs to 2018 and from April it will also provide community groups with technical assistance and expert advice to support new neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders, throughout the process. (26 February 2015)

General Conference of the New Church v Bristol City Council (Localism Act 2011) [2015] UKFTT CR_2014_0013 (GRC): the First Tier Tribunal has overturned the Council's listing of a church as an asset of community value under the Localism Act 2011.
The  Tribunal held, allowing the church owners' appeal, that the original and sole purpose of the building was as a church. That remained the position, even when other non-religious groups were permitted to make use of the church. The primary use was as a church and the other uses did not have a more than ancillary character. They were disparate, largely ad hoc and even before closure had dwindled to the point where only one group was using the church on a regular basis. Immediately before its closure, the reality was that (despite the decline in congregations) the church was still a church; not a community or social centre. The other uses were ancillary. Section 88(2)(a) of the 2011 Act was not satisfied: there had not ever been “an actual use of the building or of the land that was not an ancillary use [which] furthered the social wellbeing or interests of the local community"; nor was it "realistic" to think that there was a time in the next five years when there could be non-ancillary use of the building or of the land that would further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community, within s.88(2)(b). For the site should be listed under s.87, any proposals need to be “realistic”. The local objectors' list failed to meet this requirement and was entirely speculative, so far as it envisaged new forms of use. There was a dearth of evidence to suggest that anyone had evinced any interest in pursuing such a scheme for the church and its land, let alone shown how this might realistically be achieved. Concerns about over-development, protection of fauna and safeguarding of the mature trees on the site were all matters that fell to be addressed in the context of the law relating to development control; they fell outside the ambit of the 2011 Act. (16 February 2015) 

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Consultation

R (Silus Investments SA) v Hounslow LBC [2015] EWHC 358 (Admin) (Admin Ct): SI, a developer, applied for judicial review of the Council's decision to designate Chiswick High Road as a conservation area. SI owned a pub in the area, which was a locally listed building and heritage asset. The Council had considered designating Chiswick High Road as a conservation area in 2001 and 2006, but other areas were prioritised ahead of it, and designation did not take place. In August 2014 SI applied for approval to demolish the pub. Following concern among councillors and in the local community about the prospect of demolition of the pub, and requests for designation of the area as a conservation area, on 19 August 2014 the Council launched a consultation on its proposal to designate the area by emailing brief details of the proposal to local groups and the local website; the deadline for responses was 27 August. It did not consult landowners and occupiers individually. On 21 August the Council decided to designate the area and it published its decision on its website. On 27 August it rejected SI's application on the grounds that the works constituted demolition in a conservation area. SI contended that the Council had impermissibly sought to prevent it from demolishing the public house by: breaching a legitimate expectation of consultation and acting in a procedurally unfair manner; obtaining a decision on the basis of a misleading report; and using the conservation area procedure for an improper purpose.
The court held, granting the application, that under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the Council had a duty to designate any area which it decided met the statutory test and a duty to consider from time to time whether areas meet that test. No procedure was specified, and there was no statutory obligation to consult before making a decision. The question for the Council was whether the area met the statutory criterion. A desire to protect an unlisted building from demolition could not justify a conservation area designation, but the existence of a particular building might contribute to the proposed area and a threat of demolition might prompt the taking of a decision whether to designate. It was apparent from the terms of the officer's report recommending designation that the risk to the pub was not the reason for the designation, although it was acknowledged as a benefit. The statutory test for designation was clearly set out and the report applied the statutory criteria to the area as a whole, not just the pub. Applying the principles in the decided cases, the Council did not designate the conservation area with the improper purpose of preventing the demolition of the public house. The consultation did not meet the minimum standards of a lawful consultation procedure. The summary posted on its website and the details given in the email letters to consultees were too brief and superficial to provide for a meaningful consultation; also, the decision was made before all the consultation responses had been received. The curtailment of the consultation period was not justified and it resulted in unfairness.
SI agreed enter into a unilateral undertaking with the Council not to commence any demolition works at the public house, nor apply for prior approval of the method of demolition, for six months from the date of the order, to enable the Council to consider whether to exercise its duties under s.69 of the 1990 Act in respect of Chiswick High Road, and conduct a fresh decision-making process. Once the undertakings were in place, the decision would be quashed. (19 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Delivery of Services

MCA: Local government – Time for reinvention: this report argues that local government needs a radical rethink early in the new Parliament – to define what councils are for, what functions best suit them, and what should be undertaken by others – if it is to survive. The MCA Think Tank makes 17 recommendations, covering areas such as Getting Localism Right, Digitisation, Demand Management, and Leadership. These include improving the calibre of those in leadership positions in local government, increased digitisation of services, and a further examination of the role of local councils. (23 February 2015) 

SOLACE: Solace Insights – changing local servicesthis report looks at the mood of loca government in the run up to the General Election, and how much local government trusts national politicians to have a sufficient programme for change. The research paints a picture of local government under severe financial pressures, fearful of the potential future and feeling that solutions are unlikely to come from Government. Given the levers to pull, local government senior managers believe a brighter future is possible but this will require a new approach across all public services. (26 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Democratic Services

Cabinet Office: Local authorities receive additional £20 million for voter registration: announces additional funding for local authorities in 2015 to 2016 to ensure that local councils have the necessary funds to continue the successful delivery of Individual Electoral Registration (IER). The money, which is not ring-fenced, can be used by councils for activities such as canvassing and issuing letters and forms to electors. (24 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Devolution

DCLG: Government response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee Report: Devolution for England – The case for local government: in July 2014, the CLG Select Committee published its report that called for the transfer of a range of tax raising powers to local authorities, including business rates, stamp duty, council tax and other smaller taxes and charges, along with greater flexibility to borrow for investment. This response replies to the Committee's 51 recommendations. (26 February 2015)

IPPR: Borderland West – Assessing the implications of a stronger Wales for the West of England: this report examines the potential impact of devolution for cities such as Bristol and regions such as the West of England. It focuses on the implications of devolved fiscal policy, and in particular, tax policy. It finds that the drivers of prosperity in the west of England are unlikely to be substantially affected by the tax-related factors that are likely to be devolved to Wales. Instead, the West of England faces wider challenges from the continuing and growing economic dominance of London and its wider area and from the continuing development of devolution in the UK. (24 February 2015)

Wales Office: Powers for a purpose – Towards a lasting devolution settlement for Wales: this Command Paper sets out a blueprint for the future of devolution in Wales to make the Welsh settlement clearer, more stable and long-lasting. It announces funding measures, inclulding the introduction of a "funding floor" to protect Welsh relative funding and provide certainty for the Welsh Government to plan for the future and grow the economy, and additional powers for Wales over energy, transport, the environment and elections as part of a framework for devolution. It also says that Wales should move to a "reserved powers model", with the law setting out which responsibilities remain at Westminster(1 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Economic Development

DCLG: More than 15,500 jobs created across enterprise zones: highlights how Enterprise Zones are playing a vital role in delivering greater prosperity to the UK economy, with knock-on benefits for local communities, including improved infrastructure and new business opportunities. (23 February 2015)

DBIS: Minister signs £330 million North East Growth Deal: announces that Greg Clark, the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, has signed an extension to the North East Growth Deal with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, which will see an extra £40.6m invested in the North East economy between 2016 and 2021. (25 February 2015)

DCLG: New coastal revival fund and community teams to bring jobs and businesses to seaside towns: announces a new £3m Coastal Revival Fund that will help kick-start the revival of at-risk coastal heritage that has potential to create opportunities for new businesses and jobs. The fund will support communities looking to unlock the economic potential of those hard-to-tackle buildings, facilities and amusements such as piers, lidos and proms. (27 February 2015)

Localis: The next LEPs – Unlocking growth across our localities: this report explores the future of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the next parliament. It provides a framework for devolution to LEPs over the next five years and highlights the economically important strategic role that LEPs play in local areas across the country, successfully marrying private sector entrepreneurial vision with public sector know-how. However, while the report does find that LEPs are viewed positively by their stakeholders, it also suggests that there is room for improvement, finding that much of the £18.5bn allocated to LEPs since their 2010 formation has been determined by central priority. (2 March 2015)

DCLG: Kick start your high street – Action pack: this online action pack is part of a government-backed initiative to revive the high street. It includes short, easy to use guides for retailers and local people who are looking to take the first steps towards supporting their high street. There are easy tips for traders to support their shopping areas and jargon-busting guides to local bureaucracy. (28 February 2015)

Independent Commission on Economic Growth and the Future of Public Services in Non-Metropolitan England: Devolution to non-metropolitan England – Seven steps to growth and prosperity: the Independent Commission was established in 2014 to explore the potential for improving services and boosting growth outside England's big cities. In this, its final, report, it concludes that further growth in these areas will require serious capital investment to tackle skills shortages, improve transport and broadband and provide the affordable housing essential to business. It argues that devolution to England's non-metropolitan areas represents the best way to deliver the necessary investment in the context of reduced government funding to councils. (5 March 2015) 

Draft Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Amendment) Order 2015: this draft Order amends SI 2011/908 to allow for the appointment of an additional member of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to be known as the Interim Mayor. It also provides for the eligibility requirements, appointment process, the maximum term of appointment, voting rights, the procedures concerning resignation and termination and remuneration. (27 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Steven Smith.

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Education

Special Educational Needs and Disability (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/359): these regulations, which come into force on 23 March 2015, amend SI 2014/1530. They clarify that the restriction on the disclosure of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans applies to local authorities and set out the appeal rights that must be included in a notice to a child’s parent and a young person following a review. They also amend the First-tier Tribunal’s powers and the time limits for compliance with orders. These amendments also seek to harmonise the duties on local authorities following appeals that they have decided not to oppose, with the duties and time limits that apply when an order is made by the First-tier Tribunal in favour of the appellant. (26 February 2015)

Children and Families Act 2014 (Transitional and Saving Provisions) (Amendment) Order 2015 (SI 2015/505): this Order, which comes into force on 1 April 2015, amends SI 2014/2270 to take account of the reforms to the legal framework for detained persons with SEN as set out in ss.70-75 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Detained Persons) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/62). (3 March 2015)

DfE: Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006: statutory guidance for schools and local authorities to understand their responsibilities under the Childcare Act 2006 where staff are working in childcare provision in schools. it gives guidance about the employment of staff disqualified under the Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations 2009 from providing relevant childcare provision or being directly concerned in the management of such provision. (26 February 2015)

DfE: Consultation on Fees and Frequency Regulations 2015-16 – Government response: sets out the Government's response to the November 2013 consultation on increasing inspection fees for children’s social care and residential education providers in 2015-16. It states that, given the response to the consultation, the Government has decided not to increase the inspection fee by 20% but will continue with the policy of an annual increase of 10%. (3 March 2015)

DfE: Transition to the new 0 to 25 special educational needs and disability system: updated departmental advice that explains the changes to the support system for children and young people with special edcational needs and disability (SEND) in England, from 1 September 2014. It includes details of the changes to SEND support in youth custody(3 March 2015) 

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Clare Taylor.

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Energy Efficiency

Local Partnerships: New street lighting toolkit: DECC and Local Partnerships have developed a new street lighting toolkit for local authorities, building on the success of the toolkit developed and rolled out across Scotland by the Scottish Futures Trust. The toolkit provides a step by step guide to deliver up to 80 per cent efficiency savings. It provides clear guidelines and a structured process for councils to work through to deliver successful energy efficient street lighting initiatives. Local Partnerships estimates that if all local authorities switched to LED street lights, this would save up to £200m on electricity bills annually and deliver carbon savings of around 1MtCO2e each year, which is equivalent to the carbon emissions from 300,000 average cars. (6 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact David Hutton.

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Finance

DCLG: Parish funding for local Council Tax support scheme: the Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins has written to billing authority leaders, urging them to properly identify the amount of local council tax support funding attributable to town and parish councils in their area and ensure that an appropriate amount is passed on in open and collaborative discussion with the parishes. (24 February 2015)

Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/341): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2015, amend SI 2003/3146 to set out which local authority bodies are subject to, or exempt from, certain accounting practices, in particular with respect to the charging of expenditure to a revenue account. It inserts a reference to the practitioners’ guide for internal drainage boards, to be considered as "proper practices in relation to accounts" for these bodies. It also makes amendments to the provisions in the 2003 Regulations which set out the calculation to be followed by local housing authorities who are required to pay to Government a proportion of capital receipts derived from the disposal of housing land ("pooling").  (25 February 2015)

Draft Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Powers of Entry: Safeguards) (England) Order 2015: these draft regulations, once in force, prescribe a new requirement that must be fulfilled before a valuation officer may exercise the powers of entry conferred by the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and the Local Government Finance Act 1992 for the purposes of council tax valuation and non-domestic rating. It also makes amendments to the required notice period before exercising the powers under the 1988 Act, and changes the fine level specified in the 1992 Act. (2 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Jon Coane.

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Fire and Rescue Authorities

Welsh Government: Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 – Part 1 Guidance to Fire and Rescue Authorities and Fire and Rescue Authorities Support and Intervention Protocol: seeks views on proposed amended guidance to Welsh FRAs on their duty under the 2009 Measure to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement. It also proposes a new Support and Intervention Protocol on the Welsh Government's powers of support and intervention under the 2009 Measure and the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. The consultation closes on 1 May 2015. (12 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Governance

DCLG: Directions to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council: Directions issued under s.15(5) and (6) of the Local Government Act 1999, and s.497A(4B) of the Education Act 1996, putting in place a statutory intervention by the Secretary of State in Rotherham. The Directions address failures by the council to comply with its best value duty and failure to perform to an adequate standard, or at all, some or all of its children’s social care functions. There are also associated documents, including an Explanatory memorandum and detials of the appointed commissioners. (26 February 2015)

CIPFA: Consultation on the CIPFA/SOLACE Framework – Delivering good governance in local government: seeks views on how the existing framework and guidance have been working in practice and where further clarification or guidance is required. The responses will inform the development of an updated framework and guidance in late 2015. The consultation closes on 16 March 2015. (12 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Health and Social Care

Localis: Unblocking – Securing a health and social care system that protects older people: this report explores the failures of the health and social care system, which is resulting in sub-standard care for the older population. It addresses some of the recent issues witnessed in the health service, looks at the reasons behind them and argues that recent changes need to go further. It makes a number of recommendations, including that care for the elderly should be coordinated by single, placebased commissioning budgets for 40-55 year olds and care provision of those over 85. Acute trusts should become members of Health and Wellbeing Boards, and the Government should commit to a fixed five-year budget, to enable long-term strategic planning. (23 February 2015)

HC Public Accounts Committee: Planning for the Better Care Fund: this report concludes that the initial planning for the Better Care Fund was deeply flawed. DH and DCLG and NHS England changed the rules in the middle of the planning phase, after failing to tell planners they needed to identify £1bn in savings. As a result, all 151 health and wellbeing boards had to submit revised plans resulting in wasted time, effort and money. Local areas are now at greater risk of not being able to implement the policy. The scale of the challenge facing local government and the NHS is growing as demand for health and care services increases. The Committee is concerned that the new focus on reducing emergency admissions and making savings will significantly increase pressure in adult social care services. (26 February 2015)

DH: Care and support: getting ready for the cap on care costs – Funding to support implementation (LAC (DH)(2015)2): this Local Authority Circular gives advice on introducing the cap on care costs and the appeals system as part of the Care Act 2014. The note also gives advice on how local authorities might think about using the additional £146m of funding provided from April 2015 to plan and prepare for the final set of changes to fully implement the Care Act. (27 February 2015)

NICE: Older people in care homes (LGB25): this briefing summarises NICE's key recommendations for local authorities and partner organisations on the health and care of older people in care homes. It also highlights relevant quality standards. Local authorities have a key role in the integration of health and care services in their local communities. The advice and associated links provided in this briefing will help with work towards person-centred, integrated care. (18 February 2015)

County APPG: The state of care in counties – The integration imperative: this report from the County All-Party Parliamentary Group, with support from the County Councils Network (CCN) and the Local Government Information Unit, identifies a unique set of challenges facing counties when it comes to providing adult social care. It puts forward a set of radical recommendations for driving forward the integration agenda in county areas. The report concludes that the success of the health and social care integration is at risk in counties from overly centralised NHS structures entrenching barriers between services. It states that there is a critical need for Health & Social Care Deals, enabling counties and their partners in health to negotiate devolved deals suited to their local challenges. The inquiry was optimistic that if barriers were removed, care services could continue to successfully transform and become more tailored towards local needs. The Inquiry found that across health and social care there were significant ambitions to innovate and do more for county residents. (4 March 2015)

NICE: Home care – Delivering personal care and practical support to older people living in their own homes: seeks views on a draft guideline for commissioners of home care in local authorities and CCGs, health and social care practitioners, providers, home care managers and home care workers. The draft guideline considers how person-centred home care should be planned and delivered. It addresses how those responsible for managing and providing home care should work together to deliver safe, high-quality home care services that promote independence. It aims to address recent concerns about the quality, reliability and consistency of home care services. While the Care Act 2014 and other legislation describe what organisations must do, this guideline focuses on ‘what works’ in terms of how to fulfil those duties, and deliver support to older people using home care and their carers. The consultation closes on 16 April 2015. (5 March 2015)

London Councils: Better Care Fund – London Councils' seven point plan: London Councils has written to the Heath Secretary with a plan that sets out the seven steps that London Councils believes the Government should commit to taking to ensure full value is gained from the Better Care Fund (BCF) and that it can be used as a spring-board to even closer health and care integration. The recommendations include:

  • to involve local authorities in primary care commissioning by enabling them to set up joint committees with CCGs;
  • more guidance on data protection rules when implementing integrated care arrangements for patients; and
  • greater clarity from central government on its plans for the BCF, including how it intends to monitor progress.

(6 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Highways

Delegation of Functions (Strategic Highways Companies) (England) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/378): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2015, enable strategic highways companies to delegate the listed statutory highway functions so as to permit private sector contractors to carry out certain operations on a contracted out basis. These functions include highway maintenance and street works functions. (5 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Jonathan Turner.

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Housing

DCLG: Right to Buy Social Mobility Fund – Prospectus: DCLG has launched the Right to Buy Social Mobility Fund, to help social tenants who are able to afford to exercise their Right to Buy but are prevented from doing so because the social property in which they live is not suitable for their needs, or is difficult to mortgage. This prospectus invites bids for the Fund for 2015-16, for which £42m is available. Local authorities should submit bids for funding to provide a local scheme to provide a one-off cash payment, not exceeding £20,000 (£30,000 in London boroughs) per application, to eligible tenants in place of their Right to Buy discount to enable them to purchase a property on the open market. The closing date for submitting bids is 18 March 2015. (20 February 2015)

DCLG: Unused public sector land will provide over 100,000 new homes: announces that the amount of land sold by the Government surpasses the original commitment set by the Prime Minister, and is expected to rise again by the end of March this year. The Government is calling on councils and developers to help turn it into housing as soon as possible, and is urging local authorities to follow this example and sell their redundant sites and buildings. (4 March 2015)

Draft Selective Licensing of Housing (Additional Conditions) (England) Order 2015: this draft order specifies conditions which if a local authority considers are satisfied in relation to an area, the local authority is able to designate the area as subject to selective licensing. Such a designation would have the effect of requiring landlords of private rented sector properties in the designated area to obtain a licence for their property. The conditions specified in this Order are in addition to the two sets of general conditions under which an area can already be designated as subject to selective licensing, as contained in s.80 of the Housing Act 2004. (6 March 2015)

Housing (Wales) Act 2014 (Commencement No. 2) Order 2015 (SI 2015/380 (W.39) (C.21): this order brings Part 3 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 (gypsies and travellers) into force on 25 February 2015. (23 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact David Isaacson.

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Police and Crime

HC Home Affairs Committee: Evaluating the new architecture of policing – The College of Policing and the National Crime Agency: this report looks at the realisation of the Home Secretary's ambitious plan for the new landscape of policing since 2010, with some organisations being abolished and others created and with functions being reallocated. Her aim was to declutter the landscape and to ensure that policing was able to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The Committee considers that she was right to embark on this journey but it is too early to say if all the changes meet this test, especially as the changes have been initiated during a period of austerity. Furthermore, it is far from clear that the plan has resulted in fewer organisations. The report focuses on the College of Policing and the National Crime Agency, and also comments on the Police Code of Ethics. In looking at the new landscape, the Committee raises concerns that some police forces believe that they will not be able to operate in their current form while making further efficiency savings. It has previously examined how forces can collaborate both with their neighbouring forces, and with other blue light services. It believes that potential savings from collaboration between forces and between the emergency services at local level have not yet been fully realised and offers the best opportunity to achieve further efficiency gains. The Committee recommends that where pre-existing alliances have proved successful, and there is local support police forces should be allowed to merge. (17 February 2015)

Committee on Standards in Public Life: Local policing – Leadership, ethics and accountability: Update note on police area visits: a summary of the police area visits undertaken by members of CSPL for the inquiry into the leadership, ethics and accountability of local policing. (27 February 2015)

Serious Crime Act 2015: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on a day (or days) to be appointed. The Act includes new measures to tackle female genital mutilation and domestic abuse: it places a duty on healthcare professionals, teachers and social workers to report known cases of FGM to police, and criminalises patterns of coercive or controlling behaviour against an intimate partner or family member. (3 March 2015)

Home Office: Individuals at risk of being drawn into serious and organised crime – A Prevent guide: this guidance supports local partners, such as  law enforcement agencies, government departments, regulators, local authorities, the voluntary sector and the private sector, to understand pathways into serious and organised crime and put in place interventions for at-risk individuals. (3 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Procurement

Crown Commercial Service: Public Contracts Regulations 2015 – Statutory guidance for contracting authorities and suppliers on paying undisputed invoices in 30 days down the supply chain: this guidance, issued under reg.113 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 relates to the payment of valid and undisputed invoices within 30 days. (27 February 2015)

Crown Commercial Service: Public Contracts Regulations 2015 – New requirements relating to pre qualification questionnaires to help businesses access public sector contracts: statutory guidance on qualitative selection for above EU threshold procurements. Contracting authorities must have regard to this guidance for all new procurements that commence from 26 February 2015, when the new regulations come into force. It recommends that all public sector bodies subject to this guidance should adopt the set of standardised selection questions when assessing supplier suitability for providing goods and services. (27 February 2015)

DfE: Effective buying for your school: departmental advice for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies of local authority maintained schools. The advice outlines basic rules of procurement, which aim to ensure that public funds are spent openly and fairly. It also aims to protect schools against legal challenges, financial penalties and reputation damage. (6 March 2015)

Bevan Brittan byte size procurement updates: we have published a further three articles in our "byte size" legal updates, in which we look at the new Public Sector Directive and implementing Regulations and deconstruct them into a topic based approach. For each topic we provide a brief explanation of the provisions in the new Directive. We also highlight some of their practical implications. They cover:

Solent NHS Trust v Hampshire CC [2015] EWHC 457 (TCC): the Council applied to lift the statutory suspension of a £40m contract for the provision of adult substance misuse recovery services that was to start on 1 April 2015. The NHS Trust, which was the incumbent provider, came second in the tender competition. It challenged the Council's decision to award the contract, contending that there had been a breach of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006, and this triggered the automatic suspension of the award. The Council applied for the automatic suspension to be lifted.
The court held, granting the application, that in deciding whether or not to lift the suspension, the court had to decide whether there was a serious question to be tried, whether the NHS Trust would be adequately compensated by an award of damages and whether on the balance of convenience the suspension should or should not remain in place. The balance of convenience rested firmly in favour of the suspension being lifted immediately. That provided the best, or at least better, opportunity for the service users to have the more fully integrated and improved services provided sooner than if the suspension remained in place. Damages were an adequate remedy in any event and the two primary grounds advanced by the NHS Trust as the basis as to why damages would not be an adequate remedy were unconvincing.
The judge raised concerns about the 3,200 service users and the impact of a delayed contract on the services to be provided for their benefit. Whilst the NHS Trust had agreed in principle to continue to provide the current level of services for as long as was reasonably necessary, what was not going to be provided was the new, improved and integrated service which this proposed contract was intended to provide. The effect of a significantly delayed contract which planned to bring greater integration and improvements to the services for these people would be harmful and detrimental to them. It would be unfortunate, not to say tragic, if even one person died or suffered unavoidable serious physical or mental deterioration as a result of unavoidable delays in the provision of the improvements planned by the new contract. The court should not take risks with people's lives and health – whilst the NHS Trust, if it continued under the existing regime, would not put service users’ lives at risk, the integrated and improved service to be provided under the new contract had a better chance of better outcomes and it would be wrong to risk service users not having the benefit of those improvements as soon as possible. Although the court could, should, and indeed did, take into account the public interest in seeing that there was compliance with the Public Contract Regulations, that factor was not a conclusive one. The court must look across the whole spectrum of factors to determine where in any given particular case the balance of convenience lay. (26 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Emily Heard.

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Public Health

DH: Public health services non mandatory contract: the DH has published an updated public health services contract which can be used by local authorities when commissioning services to deliver their new public health functions from April 2013. There is also guidance with explanation of key contract clauses and advice on completion of the contract. (26 February 2015)

DH: Transfer of 0-5 children’s public health commissioning to local authorities – Finance factsheet 3: Final allocations: explains the arrangements from October 2015 and outlines timescales for NHS area teams and local authorities in the run-up to the transfer. (3 March 2015)

DH: School Nurse Programme – Supporting the implementation of the new service offer: Helping school nurses to tackle child sexual exploitation: this pathway clarifies the role of the school nursing service regarding child sexual exploitation. It aims to consolidate best practice by: helping practitioners to recognise child sexual exploitation and to understand its effects on health and well-being; summarising the evidence base, including the types of child sexual exploitation, its prevalence and consequences; and identifying the school nurse role at different levels of service and outlining a core offer from the school nursing service. (3 March 2015)

LGA: Checking the health of the nation – Implementing the NHS Health Check Programme: the NHS Health Check Programme offers eligible people between the ages of 40 and 74 advice to help delay or prevent conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and certain types of dementia. Many local authorities now consider NHS Health Check as a core programme within their adult health improvement programmes. The NHS Health Check also provides an opportunity to identify and refer at-risk people into locally commissioned health improvement and treatment programmes. This publication from the LGA looks at how five different authorities are using innovative ways to deliver the programme. (27 February 2015)

NICE: Excess winter deaths and morbidity and the health risks associated with cold homes (NG6): this guideline makes recommendations on how to reduce the risk of death and ill health associated with living in a cold home. The aim is to help meet a range of public health and other goals. The guideline is for commissioners, managers and health, social care and voluntary sector practitioners who deal with vulnerable people who may have health problems caused, or exacerbated, by living in a cold home. It will also be of interest to clinicians and others involved with at-risk groups, housing and energy suppliers. It recommends that health and social care professionals, as well as those working in the heating, plumbing and electricity industries sign post people who live in cold homes to a single-point-of-contact system for help in making their home warmer. Local health and wellbeing boards should ensure that a single-point-of-contact health and housing referral service is designed and commissioned to help vulnerable people who live in cold homes. (5 March 2015)

HC Public Accounts Committee: Public Health England’s grant to local authorities: this report concludes that many local authorities do not yet receive a proportion of public health funding that fairly reflects their needs. In 2013–14, a third of local authorities received more than 20% above or below their target funding allocation – the amount that would be their fair share taking account of relative needs. However, the DH has decided not to change the distribution of monies in 2015-16, with the total amount remaining the same, meaning inequalities in funding will persist. Local authorities are also presently constrained by being tied into contracts to which the DH had previously committed, such as for sexual health interventions, limiting their ability to respond to local priorities. It is not clear whether the £2.7bn public health grant to local authorities will remain ring-fenced. If the ring-fence is removed, there is a risk that spending on public health will decline as councils come under increasing financial pressures. The Committee makes a number of recommmendations, including that the DH should set out clear plans for how quickly it will move local authorities to their target funding allocations for public health and prioritise a quick decision on whether the ring-fence will remain. (6 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Publicity

DCLG: Written statement to Parliament – Royal Borough of Greenwich: announces that Greenwich RLBC has been served a direction under s.4A of the Local Government Act 1986, requiring it to comply with the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity which restricts the frequency of publication of the council’s newspaper, by commissioning or publishing no more than four issues p.a. of ‘Greenwich Time’ or any equivalent newsletter, newssheet or similar communication. (3 March 2015)

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Rating

DCLG: Business rates – Retail relief guidance: the Government is providing funding for a business rates discount of up to £1,000 in 2014 to 2015 and of up to £1,500 in 2015 to 2016, to all occupied retail properties with a rateable value of £50,000 or less. This document provides updated guidance to authorities about the operation and delivery of that retail relief. (27 February 2015)

Non-Domestic Rating (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/424): these regulations, which come into force on 28 March 2015, amend the date from which certain alterations to the non-domestic rating list will take effect. The purpose of the regulations is to limit backdating of changes to the rating list arising from proposals made on or after 1 April 2015 and alterations by the valuation officer on or after 1 April 2016. (3 March 2015)

Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Demand Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/427): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2015, amend SI 2003/2613 on the content of non-domestic rating demand notices. These regulations update the explanatory notes which must be provided by local authorities with non-domestic rating demand notices. (3 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Jon Coane.

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Regulatory Services

LGA: Remodelling public protection – The future of councils' regulatory services: this short discussion paper aims to start a debate about the future of public protection services – trading standards, environmental health and licensing. These services have an important role in relation to a range of environmental and health issues, and protect consumers and businesses and rogue traders. However, they are small services in comparison to other council functions and (with the exception of licensing) are largely reliant on general council funding. The cuts to public protection budgets have led to a notable reduction in staff numbers, and a significant loss of expertise. This paper sets out the challenges facing these services, and outlines a range of actions for all those with a stake in these services to consider. The LGA welcomes views on the paper. (3 March 2015)

DBIS: Lighters Direction 2015: this renewed Direction from the Secretary of State to local authorities gives guidance how they should enforce the European Commission Decision 2006/502 on child resistant lighters and novelty lighters. It includes the text of the relevant Commission Decisions. (6 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Adam Kendall.

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Social Enterprises

Cabinet Office: Social investment and social entrepreneurship in the UK: the Cabinet Office has issued two simple guides that explains social investing and starting a social venture in the UK for international social investors and entrepreneurs. (23 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Matthew Waters.

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Standards

DCLG: Protecting public money: lobbying by government, local enterprise partnerships, and local authorities: the Secretary of State has made a written statement to Parliament on the steps that DCLG is taking to protect taxpayers’ money. He announces that the standard grant agreement is to be amended to impose a new anti-lobbying, anti-"sock puppet" clause which states that payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action, are not eligible expenditure. He also announces that local enterprise partnerships, like councils and quangos, should not be hiring lobbyists to influence the award of contracts and grants or influence legislation. The Government will shortly be writing to all partnerships to remind them of their responsibilities and make it clear that it will not stand for any so-called ‘lobbying on the rates’. If they have lobbyists on the books then their contracts should be terminated immediately. (23 February 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Olwen Dutton.

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Traffic and Transport

DCLG: Government delivers on parking promises to help local shops: announces new parking enforcement measures designed to stop over zealous parking enforcement, including:

  • a 10 minute grace period when parked in a bay;
  • a ban on the use of CCTV ‘spy cars’;
  • new powers for parking adjudicators so they can hold councils to account to tackle parking problems such as poor signage at specific locations;
  • a new right enabling local residents and firms to petition to initiate a formal review of parking policies in their area;
  • drivers are not fined for parking at out-of-order parking meters;
  • bailiffs do not use overly aggressive action; and
  • guidance reinforcing that using parking to generate profit is prohibited. 

The relevant legislation and guidance is:

(6 March 2015)

DfT: Nick Clegg announces multi-million pound boost for cycling in 8 major cities: outlines how a £114m investment in cycling will be divided up between eight major UK cities. The money will be used to help each city deliver plans to get more people cycling by improving and expanding cycle routes between the city centres, local communities and key employment and retail spots. (2 March 2015)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Jonathan Turner.

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